If you took a look at my whisky shelves they will tell you one thing; I am very Scotch focused in my purchasing.
There are a handful of bourbons, three or four whiskies from Wales, a couple of rums and only one from a country having a massive whisky renaissance over the past ten to fifteen years – England. There is nothing from elsewhere in the World; not even Ireland. Wales features more than it perhaps would if it wasn’t for the fact I was born and raised there. Oh, and let’s just brush past my wife’s selection of gins tucked away in the bottom corner. She managed to squeeze them in somehow *rolls eyes*.
I have tried and enjoyed many samples, and a good few bottles from other nations, but something keeps stopping me from venturing too far away from the country that started my whisky journey. I think I can sum up the reason in a few words. Those words are history, landscape and tradition. Just saying those words in the context of Scotland and whisky will no doubt conjure all the images in your mind that I am seeing too, and i’m not even going to mention the dreaded T word!
Distilleries such as Bimber and Spirit of Yorkshire in England, and even Amrut in India, have been proving that idyllic locations with rugged coastlines, mountainous vistas and beautiful stone buildings aren’t required to make a great product. Yet, there is a certain amount of romance in my mind knowing that the whisky I am drinking has come from such a place. Be it the waves lapping against the big white sided buildings along Islay’s Kildalton coast, the beauty of the ivy clad Blair Athol, or the dark and dank looking warehouses of Springbank, there is a picture in your mind that adds to the drinking experience. You perhaps have to skirt over the fact many distilleries transport new make spirit in tankers to be put into cask and matured many miles away in the central belt of Scotland. Let’s not spoil those lovely mental images now!
There’s a reason why most of the new distilleries cropping up in the country are keen on the traditional Scottish aesthetic. They often come with a modern twist, such as a big glass frontage, but always with at least a nod to what has gone before them. An industrial unit in Glasgow would certainly be the cheaper option in terms of planning, building and distribution costs, but where is the romance and the sense of place? It matters…whether you believe it or not.
Then there’s the folklore and tradition. Illicit distilling, with people producing whisky or uisge beatha, hidden away amongst the rugged landscape where the exciseman will struggle to find them, and smuggling their casks across the mountains and glens. Generations of men and women working in the local distillery and passing their craft down the line. Mythical stories, and centuries of poetry and songs.
It’s no good, Scotch whisky is where my heart lies, and I just cannot shake those shackles away. That’s on me, but the mind is an important part of the journey. One of the things we don’t talk about as much as smell and taste is the mindset of the individual, and the influence it can have. We all have prejudices or prejudgements in our heads. There will be some people, including myself, who are big fans of certain distilleries. You try and be impartial, but perhaps those feelings are slightly clouding our judgement. “This whisky can’t be bad, it’s produced by insert distillery name, so it has to be good”. Perhaps we then give it more time, or imagine we can smell and tastes notes we were expecting to be there, but in reality are not. At the end of the day, we are complex individuals and the brain is a powerful tool.
We have never had it so good in terms of how much whisky is available for us to drink. I simply don’t have the time, budget or the liver to be into everything. There is still so much more in Scotland I want to explore and more is being produced all the time. Although I will never close myself off completely to what is being made worldwide, you will have to forgive me for being Scotch focused. I am who I am, and at the moment I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One distillery which certainly hits the brief in terms of picturesque beauty and a sense of place is Edradour. From the old whitewashed buildings with red doors and windows, to the white picket fences and the babbling stream running through its heart. It has to be one of the most beautiful of them all. The whisky I am reviewing here has been aged for eight years and is a vatting of four 2013 vintage casks. One of those casks being an Edradour sherry cask (cask #563), and three being peated Ballechin bourbon casks (casks 55/57/58). Both unpeated Edradour and peated Ballechin are made at the Edradour distillery, so it is a single malt, but Edradour reference this as a being a double malt. This bottle cost me £46.95, and is still available at time of writing.
Edradour Ballechin 8 Years Old 2013 Vintage – Review
Nose : The rich sherry cask influence is apparent immediately. Demerara sugar, molasses, espresso, balsamic and mixed dried fruit. There’s a fresher and more vibrant fruit aroma too in the form of mango and peach. The peated spirit is combining to bring leaf fire smoke, with a soily, musty earthiness, and a bit of tobacco. Mechanical oil, polished wood, menthol, vanilla and baking spices add to the complexity. An excellent start.
Palate : A rather thick and oily mouthfeel. It’s rich again on the palate, but there is a nice balance between the sweetness the sherry cask brings and the savoury from the peated spirit. At first its demerara sugar again and lots of treacle toffee, with cherry, raisin and orange peels. The peat makes a bigger impact on the palate and begins to assert after a few moments, with barbecued chilli beef, coal tar and a charred oak bitterness. The bitterness builds, but is rounded off by a lovely crème caramel before it can dominate the experience. The smoke lingers into the finish, and moves toward the earthy leaf smoke we got on the nose, with hazelnut and light oak spice.
Conclusions : This is really excellent. Despite its noticeably dark colour, it feels like there is a nice balance between the bourbon and sherry casks, with the peated element bringing a lovely savoury-ness to counteract the sweet sherry.
Score : 7.5/10
Three Word Review : Rich. Fruity. Leafy.
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 46%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation :1 x Unpeated Sherry cask 3 x Peated Bourbon cask
Region : Highland
Colour : Dark Copper